On 12 March, the European Policy Centre (EPC) together with the Coalition for Health, Ethics and Society (CHES) organised an open debate between key actors involved in active and healthy ageing issues from all areas of society. Participants represented community and health services, transportation and building and housing to discuss how to develop more age-friendly environments in societies and how to ensure ongoing initiatives and projects across policy areas at both local and EU level.
Lisa Warth, Coordinator of the WHO Global Network on Age-friendly Cities and Communities, highlighted that Active and Healthy Ageing is the process of optimising opportunities for health, participation and security. In order to promote good health and healthy behaviors at any age, it should be considered that adapting urban environments in cities (public transports, buildings) represents one of the key elements to improve the daily life of the most vulnerable people. In 2010, the WHO Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities initiative was launched in order to contribute to this mutual support and commitment between local public authorities, communities and citizens.
Discussing how to turn the “silver” economy into “gold,” Vappu Taipale, Co-President of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Chair of the Union for Senior Services in Finland, explained how active and healthy ageing is a major opportunity for Europe. Traditionally seen as a burden and charge to the society, elder people play an important role in the labour market and present a real opportunity to exploit for economic growth. Ms. Taipale explained that Initiatives have to ensure more empowerment for older people, better support for independent living and further creation of innovative solutions (services, products) in this development as well. Today, societies need to find new solutions, new resources and new service designs to make a societal environment more flexible and accessible to everyone. Main elements include, among the others, principal support and commitment between key stakeholders in the area of active and healthy ageing, listening and working with other people, adoption of an integrated approach and multi-sector partnerships and design for diversity.
Speaking on behalf of the European Commission, Jorge Pinto Antunes, Policy officer – Innovation for Health and Consumers, DG Health and Consumers, reminded participants that active and healthy ageing is one of the most significant ongoing societal challenges which is where the concept of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing derived. A platform for age-friendly cities and regions is one of the horizontal actions of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP AHA).
Overall, speakers considered that Europe needs an attitude change and a shift in mindset towards active and healthy ageing. To ensure the challenges and opportunities of demographic changes are on the policy agenda, the European Union has already launched various initiatives that support active and healthy ageing in diverse areas such as the Smart Cities and Communities Initiative or the current European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (among others). However, efforts must be pursued to increase awareness on the huge potentiality of older people in the society at large.